Even though Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) operating at low Reynolds numbers are becoming common, their performance and maneuverability are still greatly limited due to aerodynamic phenomena such as stall and flow separation. Birds mitigate these limitations by adapting their wings and feather shapes during flight. Equipped with a set of small feathers, known as the alula, located near the leading edge and covering 5% to 20% of the span, bird wings can sustain the lift necessary to fly at low velocities and high angles of attack. This paper presents the effect on lift generation of different placements of a Leading-Edge Alula-inpsired Device (LEAD) along the span of a moderate aspect-ratio wing. The device is modeled after the alula on a bird, and it increases the capability of a wing to maintain higher pressure gradients by modifying the near-wall flow close to the leading-edge. It also generates tip vortices that modify the turbulence on the upper-surface of the wing, delaying flow separation. The effect of the LEAD can be compared to traditional slats or vortex generators on two-dimensional wings. For finite wings, on the other hand, the effect depends on the interaction between the LEADs tip vortices and those from the main structure. Wind tunnel experiments were conducted on a cambered wing at post-stall and deep-stall angles of attack at low Reynolds numbers of 100,000 and 135,000. To quantify the aerodynamic effect of the device, the lift generated by the wing with and without the LEAD were measured using a 6-axis force and torque transducer, and the resulting lift coefficients were compared. Results show that the location of the LEAD yielding the highest lift enhancement was 50% semi-span away from the wing root. Lift improvements of up to 32% for post stall and 37% for deep stall were obtained at this location, demonstrating that the three-dimensional effects of the LEAD are important. The lift enhancement was also more prominent on a finite moderate aspect-ratio wing (3D) than on an airfoil (2D), confirming that the LEAD is a three-dimensional device. Identifying the configurations and deployment parameters that improve lift generation the most is needed to design an adaptive LEAD that can be implemented on a UAV wing for increased mission-adaptability.

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